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Review and photos by Andy ArgyrakisThough it's always tricky to keep tabs on who's in the band, the Smashing Pumpkins brand appeared to be back on track in a homecoming show supporting "Oceania" (Martha's Music), its first traditional full-length project in five years. In fact, longtime leader Billy Corgan and relative newcomers Jeff Schroeder (guitar), Mike Byrne (drums) and Nicole Fiorentino (bass) were so proud of the collection that they turned in a front to back rendering during a stop at Chicagoland's Allstate Arena (just minutes away from the front man's childhood home).
Despite the constantly changing faces and lack of original members (besides Corgan), "Oceania" is certainly a step in the right direction, even if the decision to play all 70 minutes of it simultaneously proved to be a bit cumbersome. Even so, the Pumpkins had no trouble updating its alternative rock aura to today with the guitar-charged opener "Quasar" and the lush ballad "The Celestials" amongst the most contagious.
However, the entrancing visuals that accompanied the "Oceania" segment were the main allure, which came courtesy of Sean Evans (best known for working with Roger Waters on his monumental tour of Pink Floyd's "The Wall)." Briskly changing patterns, images and light surges enveloped the entire globe-shaped projection area, particularly captivating throughout the prog rocking title track and the synth-spiked "Glissandra."
Come the second half, the production dialed down to make room for simply the songs, with retro recollections like "Disarm," "Tonight, Tonight" and "Bullet With Butterfly Wings" more than speaking for themselves. But just as that momentum reached a fever pitch, it was derailed with an excessively long (and oddly one-sided) conversation between Corgan and the crowd, along with the less immediate recent tune "A Song For A Son."
Thankfully though, the unrelenting "Zero" and pummeling "Cherub Rock" picked the pace right back up to the point where it felt just like a heyday Pumpkins show. But rather than encoring with something like the sadly skipped "Today" (or even "1979"), less iconic cuts like "Ava Adore" and "Mayonaise" proved anticlimactic in comparison. The night may not have been perfect when it came to pacing, but at two-and-a-half hours, no one could accuse Corgan and company of not giving fans their money's worth, especially when they sounded just as stingingly sweet as the days when they defined the entire alternative era.
Openers Anberlin may have gleaned partial influence from the headliners, but the group's blasts through its new record "Vital" appeared to be more directly shaped by experimental acts of the 80s. Cuts like "Little Tyrants," "Other Side" and "Someone Anyone" showcased an affinity for The Smiths or The Cure, while front man Stephen Christian had no trouble commanding the incoming crowd with past fist pumpers like "Impossible" and "Feel Good Drag." Though the Florida-based band makes the regular rounds on the club circuit, its latest sounds could easily fill an arena on their own with this outing certainly serving as a fitting warm up. y books as game changing geniuses, the band had no trouble bringing the party three decades into its career, which coupled with the vital cause, added extra merit to the enjoyable evening.
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